Cinco de Mayo is upon us! It is going to be a fun weekend of partying on Saturday, and recovering on Sunday. Cinco de Mayo is the day where we celebrate the heritage of Mexico, and their contributions to the culture of the United States, mainly through Corona and tequila. We have been celebrating this holiday…well, in California…since the 1860’s. It did not really catch on as a holiday in most of the rest of the country until the 1940’s and 50’s. It really kicked into high gear in the 1980’s when beer and liquor companies discovered that there was a holiday their product could be integral in celebrating. The momentum has been growing ever since. In 2005 Congress (who it would appears loves a good party) wrote a resolution calling on the President to ask the people of the United States to celebrate the holiday. It had been going on for a long time before that, but now we had the blessing of the government to party.
Why on earth are we celebrating this holiday anyway? What is so special about the fifth of May? By the end of the 1850’s Mexico was flat broke. So broke, the president at the time, Benito Juarez, declared they country was not going to pay any foreign debt for two years. France, Spain, and England did not look too kindly on this, and sent their respective militaries to let the Mexicans know this. England and Spain sailed home after negotiating deals, but the French saw an opportunity to make a huge land grab in a destitute country. The Mexicans brought together a poorly trained army to face the well trained French one in a little town called Puebla de Los Angeles on May 5, 1862. The Mexicans were able to drive off the French in a battle that lasted all day. It was more of a symbolic victory; France brought more troops and ran roughshod over the country until the United States helped to drive the French out. Some historians feel that this little battle also helped to distract France from throwing their weight behind the Confederacy in the Civil War, who they had considered backing.
We celebrate this day like champs. There are festivals and parades in over 120 cities, and most people spend all day eating Mexican dishes and drinking Mexican beers and tequila. The Mexicans, however, do not really celebrate it outside of Puebla, where there are military parades and reenactments of the battle. Some places outside of Puebla enjoy some festivities, but not on the scale that we do in the United States.
Most people are going to go after a small number of drinks on this day. They will hit the Coronas, or maybe Dos Eqius, have a few shots of tequila, or maybe indulge in some margaritas. However, there is a much wider world of cocktails that are out there that use tequila. And other beers more popular than Corona. If we are going to celebrate Mexican heritage, let us take a look at what Mexican like to drink:
We all may be fans of the margarita when we go for authentic Mexican, but in Mexico their popular cocktail of choice is this one. And why not? It is made with simple and commonly found ingredients, and does not require any complicated preparations.
2 oz. tequila
.5 oz. lime juice
6 oz. Grapefruit soda (go with Jarritos for the holiday)
In a tall glass, combine the tequila and lime juice. Add your ice, then top it off with the grapefruit soda. Jarritos is available at Kroger, so finding it should not be difficult. Some recipes call for a pinch of salt as well, or a salt rimmed glass. If you want to do something a little fresher, just use grapefruit juice and top it off with some soda. Still fizzy and tart!
Nothing alcoholic, but something that Mexicans will drink as a chaser to their tequila. It is made with either orange juice (which it was made with originally) or tomatoes, and has a recipe that is not too far off from bloody mary mix. To enjoy it properly, you would take a sip of the tequila, then a sip of the sangrita to stop the burning. It is sold commercially, but here is a recipe you can make on your own, courtesy of Food & Wine:
2 medium cucumbers, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter
1/2 dried ancho chile, stemmed and seeded
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Cut two 3 1/2-inch lengths from each of the cucumbers to use as cups. Peel the pieces, leaving a 1 1/2-inch band of peel at one end of each. Using a melon baller, scoop out the seeds, stopping just before reaching the bottom. Refrigerate the cups for at least 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the ancho chile over moderate heat until it begins to blister, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the ancho to a work surface to cool.
- In a blender, combine the orange, tomato and lime juices with the onion and Worcestershire sauce; crumble in the toasted ancho and puree. Strain through a coarse sieve. Season the sangrita with salt and pepper and chill for 20 minutes.
- Pour the sangrita into the cucumber cups and serve.
Dulche de tequila
I found this one while doing my research, and it was too good to pass up. It contains a little bit of the history of the day, all in one delicious cocktail. It is a little bit French (Cointreau and cognac) and a little bit Mexican (tequila, agave nectar, and lime) all at the same time. How do you turn down something named “tequila candy” or “sweet tequila”?
2 oz. tequila (reposado or better)
1 oz. cognac
1 oz. Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
.5 oz. of lime juice
1 tbsp agave nectar (you can purchase it at Arrow Wine)
Sugar for rimming
Lemon wedge (garnish)
Wet the edge of the glass with the lemon and rim the glass with sugar. Pour all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake well, and then strain into the glass. Use the lemon wedge for a garnish
Beer drinkers, this one is for you. It is for you only if you like a little adventure in your beer, and some heat. Some places will fill the glass a quarter of the way full with tomato juice or orange juice, and then add the beer. You can always add more of the beer when you drink it down a bit. And darker beer, like Negro Mondelo, is highly recommended.
12 oz. beer (Mexican, of course)
1 lemon’s worth of juice
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 dash of soy sauce
1 dash of Tobasco sauce
1 pinch of black pepper
Salt (for the glass)
Rim the glass with the salt. If you want some more kick, mix the salt with crushed pepper. Mix all of the ingredients in a tall glass with ice. Pour the beer over top of it, stir gently, and serve.
Go out and enjoy the day! Try some different Mexican beers, like Negra Mondelo, Pacifico, or Tecate, have some tequila, and relax. If you are looking for some places to go and celebrate, our own event guru Lisa Grigsby penned an article about where to go celebrate the day around our fair city. Salud!